Teaching your dog fetch

October 4, 2014

Getting tired to playing a one-sided game of fetch? Follow these simple steps to convince your dog to return.

Having a furry four-legged friend to take for walks and greet you happily when you come home is the best. Training your dog to “come” when called is the most important command he can know.

Here are a few tips on how to teach your dog to recall:

  • Not all dogs are created equal when it comes to recall. Some breeds that are ruled by their nose (hounds, for example) can be difficult to recall when they’ve picked up a scent. Some dogs are not easily motivated by treats or toys. Pay attention to what your dog responds to and what he considers to be a reward for good behaviour.
  • No matter the breed, training your dog to come when called is an exercise in patience — your patience. They may never be 100 per cent accurate with the command, but if you stay calm and consistent, you should be able to teach your dog to listen and come when called.
  • Find a place in your home where your dog is comfortable and relaxed. Remove any unnecessary stimulants, like other pets, people or toys.
  • To start the training, get your dog in a seated position. Then run away from him so he is compelled to chase you. Reward him handsomely when he does.Do this several times to establish that this is good behaviour. Let him end on a high note.
  • Keep the first training session short (a few minutes) and then increase the length the next time.
  • Now try adding the next step. Still in your home (free of distractions) put your dog in a sit position and command him to “stay.” If needed, have a second person loosely hold his collar to prevent him from following you. Take a few steps backwards and call “come.” When the collar is released (or he comes on his own), reward him handsomely. Do this repeatedly, trying to increase the distance between you and the dog.
  • Correct behaviour you don’t want him to do (coming too early, veering off and getting distracted) with a change in tone by saying “uh uh.”
  • Once he knows to come to you in the living room, try the basement or the backyard. Then add distractions in these locations like other pets, people or toys.
  • When you do feel like you can take him to an off-leash park, start by practising the recall command when there are no other dogs around. If he’s motivated by treats, ensure you bring some he doesn’t usually get at home, like small pieces of cheese or real chicken. You may want to start by using a long leash (4-12 metres). If he doesn’t come when called, use the leash to gently bring him to you and reward him as though he came on his own.
  • Only let your dog off-leash in unfenced areas when he consistently shows the ability to come when called. Otherwise, you are putting him in danger.

Understanding that this training session will take patience is important, but take comfort in knowing that it's a great life-long skill for your pup to have.

Teaching your dog fetch
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